The Trump administration announced early Monday via administration officials they would, after weeks of consideration, expel 60 Russian intelligence officers they consider potential information gatherers in response to the Sergei Skripal poisoning that occurred in early March in the UK.
Of the 60 Russians, 48 are members of the Russian embassy, while 12 are stationed at the Russian mission to the UN, where senior administration officials said they were operating under the guise of diplomacy but were deemed to be conducting covert activities.
“Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security,” the White House press secretary said in a statement. “With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences. The United States stands ready to cooperate to build a better relationship with Russia, but this can only happen with a change in the Russian government’s behavior.”
Administration officials made clear President Donald Trump decided to make this move after careful consideration of the events surrounding the poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter on British soil following a shopping trip in the town of Salisbury. The likely culprit was a nerve agent known to have been produced and stockpiled by Russia called Novichok.
Officials noted that Trump had a phone conversation with British Prime Minister Theresa May last week, and that the decision to expel the officers was done in cooperation with “NATO allies and partners around the world.”
The Russian consulate in Seattle, “due to its proximity to [U.S.] submarine bases and Boeing,” will also be shuttered. There are no plans at this time, according to officials, to bring home American agents working in Russia.